Category Archives: Reviews

The Shadow Lamp by Stephen R. Lawhead, a review

shadowlamp-hpThe Shadow Lamp by Stephen R. Lawhead, Book 4 of a 5-book series, Bright Empires
Published 2013 by Thomas Nelson, 379 pages
Genre: Multiverse fantasy with a Christian worldview, suitable for teens and adults

Five books is a lot for a series. Devotees of Stephen Lawhead, like me, will of course eagerly pick up each book as it comes out. But it is necessary to do a bit of reviewing before plunging in. There’s just too much to remember.

Kit Livingstone has stumbled through the previous three books slowly getting a little wiser in his search for the Skin Map. Why do Kit and a variety of others want the map? It leads to the Spirit Well, a possible key to conquering death. And Kit has even been there, though briefly. Can he find his way back?

Kit has some loyal compatriots, starting with his former girlfriend Mina, and in this book picks up some more: Cass and Gianni.  He’s also got a compatriot who betrayed him before, Haven, and her servant Giles. Will she betray Kit again?

They all decide to look for the Spirit Well using shadow lamps invented by the evil Lord Burleigh that assist traveling to other universes. But it will be a while before more lamps can secretly be made. So they wait in Prague.

But Haven can’t wait. And soon enough Burleigh finds their trail. Is it too late?

Lawhead is a masterful writer. I enjoyed his rich characters and twisty plot. I’m also enjoying all the zillions of possibilities that the multiverse concept gives. With such a long series there are many threads and characters to weave together, and Lawhead does a masterful job. As with any masterful job, there’s always a quibble: one scene didn’t seem to add to the plot in my opinion (concerning how Lord Burleigh found and hired his henchmen).

Read my reviews of all five books in the series: one, two, three, four, five.

This is part of the Christian Science Fiction/Fantasy Blog Tour. Please check out what others are saying about the book.

Julie Bihn
Red Bissell
Thomas Clayton Booher
Thomas Fletcher Booher
Beckie Burnham
Jeff Chapman
Theresa Dunlap
April Erwin
Timothy Hicks
Christopher Hopper
Becky Jesse
Becca Johnson
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Rebekah Loper
Shannon McDermott
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Mirriam Neal
Writer Rani
Nathan Reimer
Chawna Schroeder
Jojo Sutis
Rachel Starr Thomson
Robert Treskillard
Steve Trower
Rachel Wyant
Phyllis Wheeler
Deborah Wilson

Author Websitehttp://www.stephenlawhead.com/
Author Facebook pagehttp://www.facebook.com/pages/Stephen-R-Lawhead/84503526872

Martyr’s Fire by Sigmund Brouwer, a review

martyrsfireMartyr’s Fire by Sigmund Brouwer, Book Three of Merlin’s Immortals
Published 2013 by Waterbrook Press, 216 pages
Genre: Young adult medieval saga with Arthurian and steampunk overtones

The year is AD 1313. In the previous books, Thomas managed to single-handedly conquer the English city of Magnus using his wits and some knowledge gleaned from the special secret technology library left him by his mother. Now he’s been lord of Magnus for several seasons, but he only has two friends—an old gardener and a pickpocket boy. He can trust no one else. Is he being paranoid? Who are his friends? Who are his enemies? He doesn’t know. And he wonders what happened to the mysterious individuals who helped him in an earlier pickle and then vanished.

Soon some strange monks enter the city. Using a weeping statue, they gain the trust and hearts of the people of Magnus, and soon they turn on Thomas and try to kill him. Thomas has waited too late to escape the walled city, surrounded by a lake. Or has he?  Can a pickpocket and a gardener give him the information he needs? And can he dare to take the leap of faith to get away?

I’m enjoying this tale, with its marvelous twisty plot and strong characters stuck in delightfully tight situations. There’s a steampunk flavor, with techno explanations for apparent miracles that fool the gullible populace, alongside herbal potions and poisons that give the enemy druids their power. There’s a faith element and a touch of romance.  In short, it’s a wonderful book for teens and adults too. And it’s not the final book in the series, so there’s more to anticipate!

This post is part of the Christian Science-Fiction/Fantasy (CSFF) Blog Tour. Please take a moment to check out what others are saying about this book:

Red Bissell
Beckie Burnham
Theresa Dunlap
Emma or Audrey Engel
April Erwin
Victor Gentile
Nikole Hahn
Becky Jesse
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Rebekah Loper
Jennette Mbewe
Amber McCallister
Shannon McDermott
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Writer Rani
Nathan Reimer
Jojo Sutis
Steve Trower
Phyllis Wheeler
Deborah Wilson
Rachel Wyant

Author Websitehttp://www.coolreading.com/

Hive by Rachel Starr Thomson, a review

hiveHive by Rachel Starr Thomson, Book Two of the Oneness Cycle
Published 2013 by Little Dozen Press, 299 pages
Genre: Christian supernatural suspense, suitable for teens and adults

I reviewed the first book in the series, Exile.

Tyler and Chris, buddies from childhood, decide to take on the Hive, a group of demon-possessed people. The Hive works to destroy the Oneness warrior group that Tyler belongs to. Tyler’s not afraid to attack the Hive because he is part of the Oneness, though a very new member. But Tyler’s afraid for Chris, a nonmember. Chris, an impetuous fellow, wants to get the Hive because it threatens the woman he loves. But he doesn’t have the spiritual warfare skills. And he doesn’t care.

Soon Tyler and Chris languish in captivity in a strange commune where the words spoken seem right, more or less, but actions are not. Why are they being drugged? What does the commune leader want with them? How can this leader claim to be Oneness? Will they escape with their lives?

Engaging characters and a gripping,  unpredictable plot make this a wonderful evening’s reading. I’m enjoying this trilogy, which I think should be accessible to nonChristians as well as Christians. And of course, the plot leads into the third book, which I hope to read soon!

 

Memory’s Door by James L. Rubart, a review

memorysdoorMemory’s Door by James L. Rubart, Book 2 of the Well Spring series
Published 2013 by Thomas Nelson, 353 pages
Genre: Christian supernatural

Note: see Kindle Fire giveaway promo at the end of this post.

The first book of this series, Soul’s Gate, showed the formation of the group of four people known as the Warriors Riding who leap into battles in the spirit realm. They’re real battles, with death, blindness, and physical wounds a distinct possibility. Yet the three men and one woman are willing to risk it to bring healing to various souls.

This second book, Memory’s Door, brings a huge assignment (in the form of a prophecy) to the Warriors Riding. That assignment is defeating the demon known as the Wolf, manifesting as the “spirit of religion” that urges Christians to depend on rules and the work of their hands to get into heaven.

Reece, the group leader, is plagued by doubt and fear as he grapples with his loss of eyesight from a previous encounter with a demon.  Brandon, the singer, finds he has a stalker, and his career takes a nosedive after an encounter with a radio talk show host. Meanwhile Dana gets a time-consuming promotion at work and reconsiders her commitment to the Warriors. And Marcus, the professor, seems to find his life occasionally switching to alternate timelines in which his dead son is still alive. Is he going crazy?

Can these four renew their commitment to each other and move ahead with the battle? Or is it all just too much?

What do I think? This book is full of action in the spirit realm, which I am having some trouble getting used to visualizing.  However, now that we are in Book 2 and heading for Book 3, I am getting more used to it.

Rubart’s characters carry regrets and make huge mistakes. They get ticked off. In short, they’ve convinced me they’re real people. Very cool!  Of course they’re in a pickle, and I’m not seeing the way out. In short, this book is very well done and based on solid theology. Read it!

About the Kindle Fire giveaway:
James L. Rubart takes readers deeper into the world he began in Soul’s Gate (a 2013 Christy Award winner) with Memory’s Door (Thomas Nelson), the second book in the Well Spring series.

James is celebrating the Memory’s Door release with a fantastic Kindle Fire HD giveaway.

MemoryDoor-rafflecopter

One winner will receive:

  • A Kindle Fire HD
  • Soul’s Gate and Memory’s Door by James L. Rubart

Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on September 7th. All winners will be announced September 9th at James’ blog.

 


Don’t miss a moment of the fun; enter today and be sure to visit James’ blog on the 9th to see if you won! (Or better yet, subscribe to his blog (enter your email in the blog sidebar) and have the winner announcement delivered to your inbox!)

Enter Today – 8/19 – 9/7!
Memorys Door James L Rubart Kindle Fire giveaway

The Hero’s Lot by Patrick W. Carr, a review

theheroslotThe Hero’s Lot by Patrick W. Carr, Book 2 of The Staff and The Sword
Published 2013 by Bethany House, 427 pages
Genre: Christian medieval fantasy, epic scope

Errol Stone, town drunkard turned sober warrior, wonders what his place is in the wider world. At the capital city, the king has made him an earl. The king’s gorgeous niece likes him. It looks like all will be well. Except for the fact that he has powerful enemies who wish him dead.

The old king has no heir. The first king’s death two thousand years ago bought the kingdom protection from the unseen realms of spiritual darkness, but it’s about to end. Nobles jockey for influence in the power vacuum soon to come, most not believing in spiritual matters at all. And there’s Errol, who doesn’t believe in spiritual matters either, having been tortured by an angry priest when he was a child.

A prophecy says Errol could either become the next king or he could die young. Soon he finds himself sent on a hopeless quest to an Godforsaken enemy kingdom. What good can come of it?

Compelling characters and plot twists make this a great read. Don’t miss it! I can’t wait for the next one in the series. Read my review of the first book in this series.

This post is part of the Christian Science Fiction/Fantasy Blog Tour. Please check out what others are saying about this book:

Julie Bihn
Jennifer Bogart
Keanan Brand
Beckie Burnham
Jeff Chapman
Laure Covert
Pauline Creeden
Emma or Audrey Engel
April Erwin
Nikole Hahn
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Shannon McDermott
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Writer Rani
Nathan Reimer
Chawna Schroeder
Jojo Sutis
Steve Trower
Phyllis Wheeler
Rachel Wyant

Author Website http://patrickwcarr.com/

A Cast of Stones by Patrick W. Carr, a review

acastofstonesA Cast of Stones by Patrick W. Carr, Book One of The Staff and the Sword
Published 2013 by Bethany House, 428 pages
Genre: Christian Fantasy (medieval, epic)

Errol Stone is a piteous drunk, nineteen years old, a village orphan with no past and no future. When a church messenger sends him on an errand, he discovers he’s a marked man. Assassins are shooting or hacking at him as he delivers the message to a hermit priest and then accompanies the priest and friends toward the capital city and the conclave that will soon choose a new king.

The priest and friends discover Errol has a rare talent. But they tell no one. So why do the assassins continue to hound him? And how do they know where he is, time and time again?

In a moment of sanctuary, Errol finds he has a choice: to continue as a drunk, or to take up the offer of a master with the quarter staff to teach him fighting skills. Will he or can he climb out of the pit he has dug for himself?

This book provides a great window into a new fantasy world. Well-drawn characters, a twisty plot, a  faith element, and plenty of danger make this a terrific story. I heartily recommend it.

This is part of the Christian Science Fiction/Fantasy (CSFF) Blog Tour. Please take a moment to check out what others on the tour are saying about this book and its sequel. Read my review of the sequel.

Julie Bihn
Jennifer Bogart
Keanan Brand
Beckie Burnham
Jeff Chapman
Laure Covert
Pauline Creeden
Emma or Audrey Engel
April Erwin
Nikole Hahn
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Shannon McDermott
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Writer Rani
Nathan Reimer
Chawna Schroeder
Jojo Sutis
Steve Trower
Phyllis Wheeler
Rachel Wyant

Author Websitehttp://patrickwcarr.com/

The Restorer’s Son by Sharon Hinck, a review

restorerssonThe Restorer’s Son by Sharon Hinck, Book Two of the Sword of Lyric series
Published 2012 by Marcher Lord Press, 470 pages
Genre: Christian medieval fantasy

Kieran is angry at everyone. It’s easier to be angry than to have other emotions. A trained warrior, he takes orders from nobody.

God, called the One in his world, is calling him to be the next Restorer. Like Gideon, Kieran is asked to demolish idolatrous temples. Like Jonah, Kieran is asked to speak the words of the One to a land full of ruthless enemies.

But Kieran doesn’t believe.

The book encompasses Kieran’s struggle as God turns him around to face his calling. Will he do it? Can he do it? Can he accept the cost?

This book aims at an amazing transformation in its main character, one you almost never see in fiction. Here’s why: starting the main character out in such a dark place risks losing readers at the beginning of the book. Here it works because this is the second book in a series, building on previous positive and negative information given about Kieran in Book One, where he was a secondary character.

I found this to be a gripping and effective tale, speaking volumes to anyone who has ever wrestled with God.

Men, you’ll like this book. While the (highly effective) protagonist of the first book in the series was a soccer mom, possibly not appealing to male readers, the protagonist of this one is a warrior. The protagonist of the third is also a male. So, dive in, men! If you don’t, you’re missing out!

Read my review of the first book in the series, The Restorer.

The Restorer by Sharon Hinck, a review

RestorerThe Restorer by Sharon Hinck, Book One of the Sword of Lyric series
Published 2011 by Marcher Lord Press, 454 pages
Genre: Christian fantasy

Susan Mitchell spends her time caring for her children and wishing she could have a few moments to herself.

Somehow she finds herself pulled into someplace else where everything is different: the weather, the architecture, the issues. She stumbles around trying to make sense of it, and is puzzled to discover that some of the people in this place think she has a special destiny as a “restorer,” battling against enemies within and outside the tiny nation struggling for its existence.

She’s managed to bring two things through the portal with her: a plastic toy sword, now a real sword, and memorized Bible verses.

Just how deep is her commitment to the Lord? Will she use these weapons to step into the path that the One has laid out for her in this new world, though it is likely to cost her life?

This book is well written, with a gripping plot, well-drawn characters, great descriptions, and a dilemma that is the dilemma of every Christian: will I, can I be a hero? I really enjoyed reading it, and plan to pick up the sequel right away!

Exile by Rachel Starr Thomson, a review

Exile_Exile by Rachel Starr Thomson, Book 1 of the Oneness Cycle
Published 2013 by Little Dozen Press, 223 pages
Genre: Christian supernatural fiction, YA flavor

Tyler and Chris are young men who’re making a living fishing. One day they find a live human being in their net.

It’s Reese, a spiritual warrior who’s been cast out from her clan, the Oneness. She’s an exile, and her life has lost all its meaning, so she jumped off a cliff–into the net.

The fact that she’s an exile doesn’t stop the demons from attacking her.  Tyler and Chris watch amazed, and they want to help this damsel in distress. But they know nothing about the Oneness.

How will Tyler and Chris respond to Reese’s predicament and the call of the Oneness?

I sped through this short, fast-paced novel, pleased by the well drawn characters and the surprising plot. Thomson has done a great job of portraying difficult emotional journeys. It’s a world that a Christian will recognize, and that a nonChristian might feel comfortable with. Read it!

Victoria and the Ghost by Janet K. Brown, a review

victoriaVictoria and the Ghost by Janet K. Brown
Published 2012 by 4RV Publishing, 208 pages
Genre: Young adult general fiction/paranormal

Victoria is 15, and she’s dealing with a lot. Her mom has snagged a rich new husband and has abandoned Victoria, her sister, and their dad. The girls and their dad have moved from Dallas to a farm in rural Texas, where learning to ride a horse is far more important than finding the latest fashion in the mall. But in the summertime, it’s hard to make friends. Only one girl her age lives within 15 miles, and she’s prickly. Victoria takes refuge in a beautiful, peaceful spot in a cemetery, all alone. Or is she?

I enjoyed this book, which seems to effectively get inside the head of a 15-year-old, with all her strong emotions. There’s enough happening to keep the plot rolling. With my interest in speculative fiction, I particularly like the ghost, who seems like a basically warm-hearted old chap. There’s a faith element that works, too, along with a touch of romance. Brown has done a good job.